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Simon is in the San Antonio Express-News today talking about the Republican's failure at making immigration a winning issue for them in next week's election. 

"From a policy standpoint, there was an organized effort to derail comprehensive immigration reform," says Simon Rosenberg of the New Democrat Network, a Washington-based progressive political organization.....There was (also) an effort to make immigration reform a winning issue for Republicans, but it failed for three reasons," he adds. "But despite the fence, they didn't satisfy those clamoring for more action. Second, it isn't working politically in the states, and third, it really angered the Latino community, the fastest growing electorate in the country."

 

Only Obama trails Clinton on '08 list

According to a new CNN poll, Sen. Barack Obama trails only Sen. Hillary Clinton on the list of potential Democratic candidates in 2008. The not-so-surprising results show Sen. Obama, who received 17 percent from registered Democrats, trailing Sen. Clinton, who received 28 percent (down from 38 percent in September).

The poll showed former Vice President Al Gore, former Sen. John Edwards and Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts (in that order) following the pack of first-tier candidates. Rounding out the rest were Sen. Evan Bayh, Sen. Joseph Biden, Sen. Russ Feingold, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson and Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack who are all in the low single digits.

This shouldn't come as much of a shock. Given the intense media coverage around his book tour (the Time magazine cover story, his Oprah appearance, etc.), Sen. Obama has been everywhere. A role he seems to have adjusted to quite well, he continues to challenge statements most politicos previously considered fact. Only time will tell whether he will find as much success with the challenge these results present: Sen. Clinton.

(For an interesting read on how the GOP might enjoy an Obama run, check this article out.) 

The Missing Linc (or the strange death of Rockefeller Republicanism)

New TAP supremo Harold Meyerson had a piece in yesterday's Post i meant to put up, if only for this frankly jaw slackening quote from Susan Collins.

Most of the House seats that the Democrats are expected to take from Republicans are in the Northeast and industrial Midwest, heartland of the old Republican Party of Lincoln, McKinley and Eisenhower. Many of the Republicans holding these seats are a distinct minority in a party now dominated by Southerners who are more supportive of executive branch authoritarianism and yet also more government-phobic. And the Republican moderates, judging by their own comments, are boiling mad that the Democrats are going after them. "There is no one who has voted more often with the Democrats than Linc Chafee," Susan Collins, the Republican senator from Maine, told the New York Times of her Rhode Island colleague, who is trailing Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse in the polls. "Yet that didn't stop them from going after him with everything they had."

Right. Riiiiiiiight. Of course she is correct. Sensible democrats do prefer Chafee republicans to, say, Brownback republicans. That said, reflect on the cheek of it. After 8 years of being divided, wedged, spun, polarized, split up, pilloried and pounded by a Republican attack machine that asks and receives no quarter - hell, not even a nickle - Collins has the gall to criticize Democrats for going on the attack? Its enough to leave one stammering in amazement. Anyway - i've heard Simon over the last two days say that this is the "last election of the 20th century" and in this sense at least he is dead on. There is a different politics coming. You can see it, as this WSJ piece from yesterday notes, in the battle for the Mountain West:

Despite a Republican edge in registration, Democrats are discovering the Mountain West — and Colorado in particular — to be a new political frontier as the party benefits from a potent mix of changing demographics, anger over the war in Iraq, resentment toward conservative social initiatives and millions of dollars’ worth of advocacy advertising.

But in addition to these signs of the future we also have signs of the past. This election is about the cosolidation, the close of business, of an older sort of American politics - with the GOP being further wiped out in the north, Democrats winning in the rust-belt, conservatives holding firm in the south, and so forth. And if that means that the Democrats are taking out the last of the Rockerfeller Republicans, the Republican party only have themselves to blame.

Election Blogging in the UK

A few of you might have picked up from my unusually vowel-filled spelling and odd choice of vocabulary that not everyone here at NDN is 100% American born. Let it never be said this organization is not generous in support for immigrants of all sorts. Anyway, i've been writing about the election in a few places back home in the UK, and thought i might link to them. (Full disclosure: i write these in an individual capacity, and do not speak for NDN as a whole in any sense whatsoever.) Yesterday i had a piece on the Guardian site about the whole unfortunate Kerry brouhaha. The gist of my piece was in the headline - "Kerry's gaffe was cringe-making, but the response of the Republican attack dogs shows how bankrupt the Bush administration now is." Quote:

Iraq is going to hell in a hand basket. The median American family is more than $1,000 a year worse off than it was in 2000. American health care is broken. The country is falling in the world education rankings. Global warming is going to hobble the world economy, if not end life on earth. And the Republicans really think they can win an election by attacking John Kerry? One is reminded of the tawdry fictional dictators of Huxley or Orwell, always tilting at imaginary enemies to motivate the people and bolster their crumbling regimes. There could be no more telling epitaph for the failure of conservative governance.

I'm also blogging over at the Progress blog. Progress is, basically, the British equivalent of NDN. Its what we over the pond would call a "ginger group" for the Blarite wing of the Labour Party of which i consider myself a member. Anyway, here is the latest, on the under-reported news of the Senate actually being in play following positive polls from Virginia:

Anyway, if I read the polls correctly, it is now just possible that the Democrats could win all of their competitive Senate races bar Tennessee. Doing this would take back the Senate. Is it likely? No, I think probably not. We have the turnout issue. We have the GOP's kick-ass GOTV issue. We have the Republican financial advantage issue. And we have the possibility of some other big news event coming Kerry-style and ruining another few days of the news cycle. But we must remember that if these races go into election roughly even, theory and history expect late-breaking and independent voters to go 2:1 for change.

If anyone thinks there is something about these elections my fellow limeys need to know, drop me a line........

WPost: Scandals alone could cost GOP their majority

Lot of news this morning.  Bush says Rumsfeld and Cheney will be there through 2009.  Republican House leader John Boehner says the troubles in Iraq are the military's fault, and not Rumsfeld's.  Of course more signs of disintegration Iraq. The NYTimes has a poll showing that the American people believe Democrats will significantly change our strategy in Iraq....

But to me the most remarkable story of the day is a lead story in the Washington Post that reminds all of us what a mess the Republicans have made of the government in recent years:

..."Indictments, investigations and allegations of wrongdoing have helped put at least 15 Republican House seats in jeopardy, enough to swing control to the Democrats on Tuesday even before the larger issues of war, economic unease and President Bush are invoked.

With just five days left before Election Day, allegations are springing up like brushfires. Four GOP House seats have been tarred by lobbyist Jack Abramoff's influence-peddling scandal. Five have been adversely affected by then-Rep. Mark Foley's unseemly contacts with teenage male House pages. The remaining half a dozen or so could turn on controversies including offshore tax dodging, sexual misconduct and shady land deals.

Not since the House bank check-kiting scandal of the early 1990s have so many seats been affected by scandals, and not since the Abscam bribery cases of the 1970s have the charges been so serious. But this year's combination of breadth and severity may be unprecedented, suggested Julian E. Zelizer, a congressional historian at Boston University.

For more than a year, Democrats have tried to gain political advantage from what they called "a culture of corruption" in Republican-controlled Washington. Republican campaign officials insist the theme has not caught on with the public, but even they concede that many individual races have been hit hard.

"So many different kinds of scandals going on at the same time, that's pretty unique," Zelizer said. "There were scandals throughout the '70s, multiple scandals, but the number of stories now are almost overwhelming...."

A Warning on The Turnout Issue

Talk is turning to turnout this week, and the issue of motivation has been popping up. Ken Mellman recently put out a memo saying that there wasn't a motivation gap, and that the Republican base is as fired up as ever. Common sense suggests this is unlikely. Time will tell. Nonetheless, there is a danger that the turnout figure overall will be taken as some sort of proxy for a measure of voter enthusiasm. For instance, in low turnout polls where Democrats don't win, expect turnout to be blamed on "democrats who had nothing to vote for", or somethign similar. For that reason this piece, hidden away on the Washington Post's "Think Tank town" section, is a very useful corrective. It argues sensibly that turnout is going to be down - way down - not just on 2004 but on 1994 and other congressional years. Why? At least part of it will be the fault of Republican redistricting, which has significantly reduced the number of competitive districts. (Turnout is lower if voters don't think they influence the outcome.) But part of it is just the way the cycle has panned out. Arnold looks very likely to win in CA, while the word "win" doesn't really do justice to the spanking that Elliot Spitzer is meeting out to whoever his Republican opponent is in New York. The fact of these two states having no state wide competitive race will depress national turnout considerably. 

The fault is not on the voters; people's lives are busy, and a rational person will abstain when their vote does not matter to the election outcome. The political parties also are sensitive to competition and focus their limited resources where elections are competitive... The old adage of "build it and they will come" is relevant. All but hardcore sports fans tune out a blowout. Building competitive elections -- and giving voters real choices -- will do much to increase voter turnout in American politics. There are a number of reforms on the table: redistricting to create competitive districts, campaign financing to give candidates equal resources, and even altering the electoral system to fundamentally change how a vote elects representatives....

As a foreigner in this country, it has always seemed to me that the American system of politicized redistricting (as opposed to the impartial quasi-judicial system in most European countries) is little short of crazy. Here is just one more reason why. Lets hope someone fixes it before there aren't any competitive races left. 

 

Don't forget the Youth vote

Harvard's Institute of Politics (IOP) is releasing a new poll today that hints at record Youth (18-24 year olds) turnout in next week's election. As of now, only the press release is available; but the results show great promise for Democrats, noting:

...young people continue to disapprove of the job George W. Bush is doing as President, with the President averaging a grade of “C-”on seven key issues facing America, with the lowest mark coming on his handling of the War in Iraq (D+). Finally, 18-24 year olds seem to favor a swapping of majority parties in Congress, as a majority of likely voters (52%) said they favor a Congress controlled by Democrats following the November elections.

And, while it also hints that the Youth are not happy with the current climate in Washington, the study shows that "young adults still have hope for politics."

Thankfully, the New Politics Institute continues to urge us all to understand this Millennial generation, and how new mediums can be used to speak to it.

 

Baghdad (and Moktada al-Sadr) Calling

Something earth shattering happened in Baghdad yesterday, the US Army took orders from Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki and moved all US troops out of East and Central Baghdad, giving up on the search for a kidnapped American soldier.  Those troops had been holding radical Shiite Cleric Moktada al-Sadr's militia under siege in Sadr City, while conducting manhunts. 

The flow of events could not be clearer.  An American soldier was kidnapped by al-Sadr's anti-American insurgent militia; US troops did the right thing and sealed off his powerbase to apply pressure on al-Sadr; al-Sadr declared a general strike and pressured PM Maliki; with only token US consultation Maliki ordered US troops to abandon their positions, and US commanders followed those orders.

That means that the third attempt this year to secure Baghdad has ended in failure and it has been met with silence from the White House.  President Bush won't even stand up to the Iraqi Prime Minister, and his weakness and lack of a plan is putting American troops at risk.  But don't take my word for it, read Andrew Sullivan's take on this historic failure of leadership. 

7 Sad Attempts to Exploit the Immigration Issue

Great job by TNR cataloguing the Top Seven Worst Anti-Immigration Campaign Ads.  The common thread between all these ads is that they are all run by or in support of Republican candidates.  It'll be interesting to see how many of these candidates lose on election day.  As NDN and our allies have been arguing, demonizing Hispanics doesn't take anybody to the electoral promised land.  Watch some of what we're up against: 

And my favorite.

Fixing the Broken Branch

The Brookings Institute held an excellent event yesterday, with Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein (authors of the recently published The Broken Branch: How Congress is Failing America and How to Get It Back on Track) along with former Republican Congressman Vin Weber.  The event was moderated by Washington Post columnist EJ Dionne.

Rather then the usual bellyaching about the abysmal state of the legislative branch (although there was some of that) Mann and Ornstein diagnosed the problems and laid out steps that could be taken right now, or at least November 8th.

Some of the key points about where Congress has gone wrong:

-Congress is historically bad right now.  Congress is Article 1 of the Constitution (the longest article) and more time was spent on it then anything else worked on in Philadelphia.  Congress can and should be the lynchpin of our Democracy, instead it is a shadow of what the founding fathers intended.

-Congress is no longer a transformative body, but a parliamentary one that is limited to acting on ideas and initiatives that come from a tightly controlled leadership or, more often, the Executive branch.

-The endless fundraising, travel, campaigning and abandonment of rules and norms has led to short sessions, perfunctory committee and subcommittee review, much less minority party involvement and most disturbingly, the end of the traditions of deliberation, debate and amendment. 

-We are in the midst of maybe the most aggressive exertion of Presidential power in America's history, which would be fine if Congress would act in its own self-interest and provide checks and balances.  Unfortunately, party loyalty and ideology have resulted in a Congress that subordinates itself to the President, threatening our entire system of Government.

After hearing all this, I agreed with Orenstein when he said "16% of Americans approve of this Congress' performance.  All I want to know is, what medicines are those 16% taking?"

Fortunately, Orenstein, Mann and Weber gave us a look into what they would tell Nancy Pelosi to do to fix some of the most pressing problems:   

-Start with lobbying and ethics reform with teeth, to restore trust in the system.  And follow that with, as Republican Vin Weber said, "things that will make Republican squirm," like immigration reform and the minimum wage, which enjoy bipartisan support. 

-Ornstein was optimistic about Nancy Pelosi as Speaker saying that she would be "Speaker of the whole House" not "Speaker of the majority of the majority" like Hastert.

-The really gutsy thing to do would be to return to the rules and be willing to lose occasionally, by ending Republican practices like holding votes open all night to marshal one vote majorities, and allowing meaningful debate and reform again. 

-Pelosi should consult with Republicans, hold monthly meetings just to get talking again.  Weber used the language of armed conflict, calling this a "confidence building measure," showing just how bad bipartisan relations are on the Hill.

-Finally, the language of brinksmanship has to go.  Statements like Bush's recent line about a win for the terrorists being a win for the Democrats increases polarization and makes reform that much less likely.

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